There is life before the Grand Canyon and there is life after the Grand Canyon – and they are not the same.
There’s no way to know what you will feel once you arrive in the canyon. Despite the countless reinforcements that it is, indeed, the trip of a lifetime, you won’t know this as truth until it’s your trip and your lifetime.
Once you’ve floated even a small number of river miles you realize that no picture you’ve seen, no description, however vivid, pays true tribute to the entirety of the scene. You can’t encapsulate the color of the sky, rock and river as they play off one another. Nothing can conjure the sentiment and heart swell that takes over as you float the Colorado.
It may not even sink in until you take off the river (an imaginary event that will never actually happen). At which point you realize that all of your actions are now, if even slightly, weighted by the weeks you spent on the Colorado river.
It will seem logical to make decisions based on their affiliation to the river and the next time you’ll shove off from Lee’s Ferry. For example, that the size of the guitar you may or may not buy from the flea market – which you don’t know how to play but know is incredibly crucial for future trips – is dictated by its ability to fit inside a dry box. You may find yourself in any other activity suddenly grasped by a brilliant addition to your next trip (waterproof disposable cameras for each boat to be developed and cherished, duh).
When you’re there, you know this: that when you leave, you will have to actively practice remembering. You will have to summon every creative cell in your body to recreate, in your heart and mind, the image and feeling you had standing at the base of a waterfall or a side canyon. You will have to steep yourself in the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River or Havasu. You have to crack yourself open to make space in your being for these places while you’re there. Making yourself porous. Asking yourself, “am I feeling this enough?”